Meditation

what-is-meditationMeditation is concentration of the mind on one or more things, in order to aid mental or spiritual development, contemplation, or relaxation (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America, 2012).

The benefit of meditation is profound. Meditation can significantly decrease blood pressure and muscle tension (Amen, D. 1998). It can increase flexibility, creativity, focus, and attention span (Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. & Hommel, B., 2012).

There are several types of meditation with each providing different benefits. The first is Focused Attention (FA) meditation. It is thought regulation, monitoring, and focus of attention on a chosen object. An example of FA mediation is the sensation of one’s own breathing, at the expense of all other internal and external sensations. This type of mediation helps improve the ability to focus and retain concentration.

The steps to FA are focus, breathe, relax, and count.

1. Focus on one spot, object, or sensation.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply.
3. Relax and progressively release muscle tension.
4. Count from 1 to 10 and then 10 to 1 as you continue your attention on your breathe, good thoughts coming in, bad thoughts exiting out, and relaxing your muscles.

For a detailed example of FA mediation exercise read, “Self-Soothing, A Technique for Coping During Times of Stress and Anxiety.” It takes less than ten minutes to complete.

Open Monitoring (OM) meditation is mind-wandering. It is opening your mind to all emerging thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This type of meditation allows for all internal and external sensations to be experienced with the same openness, without focusing on specific objects or sensations. After practicing OM mediation the mind is more free and flexible to access new ideas. Recent studies show that it can actually benefit your thinking and creativity. You can make better plans for yourself and solve problems with increased diversity and creativity. So letting your mind drift far and wide isn’t bad for our daily performance, in fact it can actually enhance our lives (Mooneyham, B. W., & Schooler, J. W., 2013).

Visual Imagery is creating a relaxing experience during a stressful event or visualizing details of successfully maneuvering through a race or athletic event, or imagining presenting confidently in front of a large audience. For example, if you have a fear of riding in an elevator. You can free yourself of the anxiety by exposing yourself slowly and using your imagination to experience a calming and relaxing place. It can be the beach, the mountains, or any haven that brings you a sense of serenity. When creating your safe haven, imagine it with all your senses. For instance, create an imagery and sensation of the sand between your bare toes, the smell of the salty, warm air, taste the salt on your tongue, hear the children play, watch the waves crash along the shore, and sand castles playfully being built.

Visualization is helpful for competitive athletes, creating, clear career goals, or resolving stressful situations. Set your goal, create a clear idea or image, focus on the event daily, and affirm it with positive thoughts.

Using all three types of meditation can be extremely useful in many aspects of your life. I would love to hear how you use mediation in your life.

Sources

Amen, Daniel, M.D. (1998). Change Your Brain Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness. Three Rivers Press. New York, New York.

Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. and Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Frontiers in Psychology 3:116. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116

Gawain, Shakti (2002). Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life. Nataraj Publishing. Novato, California.

Mooneyham, B. W., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). The costs and benefits of mind-wandering: A review. Canadian Journal Of Experimental Psychology/Revue Canadienne De Psychologie Expérimentale, 67(1), 11-18. doi:10.1037/a0031569

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